By Steve Hubrecht 

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Local distiller Taynton Bay Spirits is sipping international success once again.

Readers with good memories will recall that last spring the Pioneer reported on the Invermere business winning a gold medal at the London Spirits Competition for its all natural vodka. This spring it’s a different drink, and a different prestigious global spirits competition, but the same result: Taynton Bay Spirits’ ‘midnight’ gin recently took gold in the 2024 World Gin Awards held in London.

The second international accolade is all the sweeter for the Columbia Valley company because the gold-medal-winning midnight gin is a brand-new drink, launched less than a year ago, in summer 2023.

Taynton Bay Spirits co-owners Justin Atterbury and Steve Kuffler were delighted. “The awards are always nice, especially coming from a panel of 70 judges from around the world,” Atterbury told the Pioneer.

The midnight gin is only the second gin Taynton Bay Spirits has produced.

“We had a full line of vodka, but only one traditional gin,” said Kuffler. “We knew it was time to expand.”

Kuffler described the midnight gin as a “unicorn in a bottle.” When the Pioneer saw the beguiling tipple firsthand it was hard not to agree: the drink is a rich shade of royal purple and, if you shake the bottle, the swirling contents do indeed appear to glitter. Impressive, to say the least.

Taynton Bay Spirits makes it a point of pride to use only natural botanicals, so how on earth did it create a sparkling violet — a literally sparkling, and literally violet — gin?

The colour comes from butterfly pea flower tea, a blue-hued herbal tea common in Thailand and Vietnam; and the sparkle comes from pearl mica (a powdered form of the naturally occurring mineral mica, which when weathered glitters enough that it is sometimes mistaken for gold).

Even with the purple-glitter mystery sorted out, Kuffler explained that getting the mix just right isn’t easy: you need to find the right ingredients, get them in the right proportions, make sure the colour of drink is just right, and — of course — make sure it tastes delicious to boot.

“We do a lot of experimenting, a lot of taste testing,” said Atterbury. “You’re trying to create something that’s never been done before, so naturally there’s a lot of trial and error.”

To develop the midnight gin, the Taynton crew got together a bunch of botanicals they thought would work well, and began trying them. They would make a gin, taste, then tweak. Then tweak again. And again, and again, and again.

“You end up trying about 50 different versions of a certain variety. We’d discuss them as a group, then use the feedback to try and improve,” explained Atterbury.

A distiller creating a good drink is like a musician creating a hit song – there are a lot of elements, and you don’t know for certain how best to make them come together until you start trying.

With the midnight gin, the company realized they had a hit early on.

“When we bottled it, we knew it was something special, just based on the feedback from everyone who tried it. So we put a lot of resources behind it, and it quickly became our number one seller,” said Atterbury.

It was so successful, in fact, that it delayed the launch of two other Taynton gins. The company had planned to put out three gins in short succession, each themed around (and coloured to match) a time of day: ‘midnight’ gin, ‘sunset’ gin, and ‘sunrise’ gin. But midnight gin proved so big that they pushed back the launch of the other two.

Sunset gin will come out in a few weeks. As you’d expect, with a name like ‘sunset’, the new gin is red and pink. It has a grapefruit and hibiscus flavour – perfect for summer time, in other words. The ‘sunrise’ gin will launch in the fall; the ‘sunrise’ colour and flavours are still top secret.

Taynton Bay Spirits is not stopping at vodka and gin either — in July or August it will unveil its first ever rum. ‘Rocky Mountain Rum’ will pay tribute to the paddle wheel steamers that once served as the valley’s main form of public transport, plying the Columbia River between Invermere and Golden. The glass bottles the rum comes in will actually be shaped to resemble a paddle wheeler.

This April marked the company’s seventh anniversary – a milestone not all Columbia Valley small businesses reach. Kuffler and Atterbury credited Taynton Bay Spirits’ success to local support and local suppliers and extended a thank you.

The company held its first customer appreciation day last year, not long after their vodka won gold. With their new gin also a gold medal winner, a second customer appreciation day is naturally now set for Wednesday, June 12. The event will run from 4 to 8 p.m. with pulled pork-on-a-bun, more food, drink samples and discounts of 25 per cent on almost all products.

“There’ll be games, there’ll be fun, there’ll be food and there’ll be plenty of sampling. It’s guaranteed to be one of the best days of your life,” said Kuffler.